Dear Barb—Budgeting

Dear Barb:

I am in my first year of university, while also taking a course from AU each semester.  I’m anxious to get through school and begin working on my career.  Being a student, obviously I don’t have a lot of money and I’m having a hard time budgeting.  I get some grant money and loans, plus I work part time and my parents help.  Because of my heavy course load, I can’t work very many hours.  The problem is I am almost finished my first year and I have more debt than I expected to have, and if I accumulate this much debt every year I’m going to be drowning by the time I graduate, especially with the changes to OSAP brought in by Doug Ford.  I need to find a way to budget more efficiently, do you have any suggestions? Thanks, Tara.

Hey Tara:

Thanks for writing, I’m sure many students are struggling with similar financial issues, and Doug Ford did not make things any better by eliminating the interest free grace period on student loans.  There are many things you can do to budget your money in a way that would leave you with the minimum amount of debt possible when you graduate.  However, you will have to become very disciplined and follow a budget, which means you need to keep track of where your money is going and where you can cut back.  Spend a month tracking all your expenses and then you will have an idea of how much money you need.  You didn’t mention whether you live at home or in an apartment or residence.  Each will change your monthly expenses.  The Government of Canada provides a worksheet to help students budget their money.  I would suggest you print it out, it’s a great starting point.

Also, there are several things you can do, and avoid doing, that will stretch your student dollar.  For example, find a part time job.  You may think you can’t, but working a few hours a day or on the weekends, will provide you with extra money, plus you won’t be out socializing, so you will be spending less money.  Also avoid credit cards.  They may seem like the answer to your money problem, but in reality they are only going to add more monthly debt, as getting one means you now have a credit card payment.  Apply for all the scholarships and bursaries that you can.  Even the smallest amount will help.  Books are an enormous expense for students, and when possible buy used.  Often bookstores will have a limited number of used books, but you have to get them early, as they will go quickly.  Most importantly follow your budget and include money for entertainment, as you are going to want to go out with your friends.  Hope this information is helpful Tara and good luck in the future.